It was April 2015. 24-year-old Yvonne Tse had spent a year trying to get fit via a couch-to-5km program but to no avail, so she reluctantly joined her friend Olivia at parkrun. Yvonne explains how she caught the parkrun bug during the final kilometre of her very first parkrun.
I was very reluctant to run with a group of people because I thought I was so slow! Before my first parkrun I was absolutely petrified, and wasn’t sure if I was “fit enough” for a 5km event. During my first parkrun, some people realised that I was a newbie. In the last 1.5km, a regular parkrunner ran up to me, asked my name, told me how welcome I was, and encouraged me across the line. I felt so supported as I struggled along. When I finished, I was so ridiculously proud that I finished 5km without stopping – and that was how I caught the parkrun bug.
parkrun has given me a huge sense of community – fellow parkrunners have become family, they even attended my wedding! My mum, who has terrible arthritis, can walk the whole way at parkrun too.
When we recently took a career break, we visited parkruns all around the world, and it felt like visiting parts of the extended family on a Saturday. A couple of weeks ago, we relocated to Auckland, and the first thing we did was find a parkrun to attend to feel more settled. My home parkrun has been Lower Hutt in Wellington, but we are now looking for a new ‘home’ in Auckland.
parkrun has also improved my health, wellbeing and confidence – physically, mentally and emotionally. With fellow parkrunners’ support, I’ve progressed to running 10k and half marathons races – distances I didn’t think I was capable of. I’ve also noticed that when I started to achieve running goals through parkrun, it gave me the confidence to believe that anything is possible. This has pushed me to achieve in other ways I didn’t think were possible in my professional and personal pursuits.
I would encourage all women and girls (and everyone else, actually!) to come along to parkrun because we are such a welcoming, inclusive group of people. I’m super passionate about inclusion and I want my message to everyone reading this reflects that. There’s no pressure to finish in any certain time, in fact, every parkrun has a volunteer Tail Walker which means nobody can ever come last at parkrun.
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As part of the parkwalk campaign this October, we are introducing a brand new volunteer role – the parkwalker! It has been created to demonstrate that walking at parkrun is both encouraged and valued. Why “parkwalker”? Inclusivity and participation, rather than speed, has been a key principle of parkrun since day one….